Published: 18th June 2020
Crowdsourced e-lessons, televisions at common spaces: How this Kerala NGO is helping the underprivileged e-learn
The NGO RIGHTS kickstarted its Bhim online classes in the beginning of June, with an aim to bridge the digital divide and help the underprivileged children access education
Since the time that the government of Kerala had decided to start the year's school classes online, there has been criticism regarding the digital divide in the state. Despite its condition being better than other Indian states, Kerala still had a huge gap to fill. This was when a lot of political and other organisations in the state started taking up initiatives to distribute gadgets to the needy.
One such NGO is RIGHTS, that works with the Dalits, Adivasis and the fisherfolk. But will donating a gadget merely solve the issue? Apparently not. Internet penetration is still very low in the state and a lot of people cannot afford to pay for data. At a time like this, RIGHTS has kickstarted its Bhim Online Classroom for the underprivileged, through a series of crowdsourced videos and lessons. They're also setting up televisions and internet connection at common spaces in Dalit and Adivasi colonies across the state, for more children to access these classes.
"Since the beginning of the lockdown, we have been seeing a rising popularity for online education among people who can afford it," says Ajay Kumar, RIGHTS' co-founder. "By the end of April, we knew that the schools may not reopen soon and that COVID is here to stay for some time. This was when we realised that education may go online," he says.
Ajith also tells us that the digital divide in the state is proportional to the state's gender, geographical and social divide. "Since we have been working on the field for a long time now, we knew of people who have no money to buy gadgets, access data or live in places with no electricity and network. Also, the price of gadgets shot up exponentially. So, we had to look for options to help them out," he says.
That was when they started crowdsourcing educational content with the help of a few software professionals. "It was their idea for us to install televisions. That seemed like a better alternative than buying laptops, that are expensive and desktops that may not be compatible," he says. The first TV was installed in an empty house in a Dalit colony in Thiruvananthapuram. Subsequently, the group had installed TVs in many other colonies in different parts of the state. "We also ensure that children follow social distancing in these spaces. We have set up handwashing stations outside and give them hand sanitisers," says Ajith.